To pay the money directly to Steele (or Blumenthal and Shearer) transforms the dossier into opposition research — and makes it plain in Federal Election Commission reports just who paid for the research. Credible media outlets, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and much of the public immediately dismiss the claims of the “dossier” with the knowledge that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee bankrolled it. Even when journalists did not know the Democrats paid for the memo, few took it seriously. Remember: after various outlets passed on publishing the memo, BuzzFeed did. That’s not exactly the New York Times, is it? Even James Comey, who took the memo to the intelligence court, called it “salacious” and “unverified” last year. That classification came before the public, but almost certainly not Comey, connected the dots between the Clinton campaign and the opposition research repackaged as an intelligence dossier.

The only explanation for this money laundering of sorts remains the desire by Democrats to keep their funding of the “dossier” a secret. They knew that only the most stalwart partisans would fall for its contents given the knowledge of its origins. So, they muddied the waters, and people missed what lay beneath the muck. Now, after months of embracing Steele’s research, Democrats appear all-in — too heavily invested in its veracity, and in Trump’s failure, to abandon it. And as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence memo points out, “Deputy Director [Andrew] McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.” In other words, Mueller’s Russia investigation as it pertains to figures close to Donald Trump — the electronic surveillance on American citizens — does not happen without that controversial information paid for by the Democrats.